Word: declension

Pronunciation: di-KLEN-shən

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: (poetic/literary) a condition of decline or moral deterioration

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


I have bad memories of this word from studying for a standardized test through my iPod. No matter how many times it came up in my vocabulary app, I could never remember what it meant. Maybe that was because I had never seen it before I started using the app, at least not with the definition it was trying to teach me. Until that point, “declension” for me was simply a grammatical term used to identify variations of words (case, number, gender, etc.). Apparently, though, it can work just as well in fiction as in non-fiction.

In its poetic and literary sense, “declension” refers to decline or deterioration. The word is derived from the French noun déclinaison, which comes from the verb décliner “to decline”. This originated from the Latin verb declinare, meaning “to bend” or “to lower”. Originally written as “declinson” in Middle English, the spelling may have changed due to association with other words ending in -sion (e.g. “ascension”).

Honestly, I don’t know if I’d use “declension” very much in my writing. Since I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it as a reference for grammar, I probably wouldn’t bother finding a place for it in my stories. Still, it can certainly add a poetic touch to your work. If you want to describe the level of moral deterioration among your characters, “declension” is a good word to consider!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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